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Cleveland's own Russo brothers and other productions crews help boost the city's economy with new Hollywood films

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Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 08:01:28-05

CLEVELAND — There’s a mission to bring Hollywood to Cleveland after the success of two major films, Cherry and Judas and the Black Messiah, were shot in the city.

"We've got a lot more Cleveland stories that we want to tell,” Cherry Director, Anthony Russo said.

Brothers, Anthony and Joe Russo say before they started making Cherry, they knew Cleveland was where they needed to be.

“There was no option to shoot this movie if it wasn’t in Cleveland,” said Cherry Director, Joe Russo.

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Behind the scenes of Cherry, shot in Cleveland at La Dolce Vita in Little Italy.

Born in Cleveland, the brothers say Cherry was a family affair with their sister noted as one of the film’s co-writer.

But the film is also one of their most personal creations to date focusing on the opioid crisis. The film follows the journey of Tom Holland’s character from a young boy in love to a soldier struggling with PTSD who eventually sinks deeper and deeper into a life of crime fueled by his drug addiction.

“We have family members that have died from it, family members that are struggling with their sobriety,” Joe said.

“The experience that's happening in Cleveland today and has been happening over the past 20 years as well as around the country and it's important for us to recognize that,” Anthony added. “It's important for us to embrace that and not sort of shove it into a closet. So hopefully the movie can be received in that way in Cleveland and elsewhere as at least the first step to healing.”

The brothers reached out to the Greater Cleveland Film Commission with requests to shoot in Cleveland back in 2019. Their request came in at the same time as ones submitted by the crew behind Warner Brothers’ latest film, Judas and the Black Messiah. The film, directed by Shaka King, follows the betrayal of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s in Chicago, at the hand of FBI informant William O’Neal.

Both films began shooting in Cleveland last fall.

“At the very least it sounds like Judas and the Black Messiah is going to be an Oscar contender. Same with potentially for Cherry as well. I mean that just helps raise the profile and I think it shows people that you can make your films here in Cleveland, Ohio,” said Mike Wendt, Production Coordinator for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

Wendt says since 2015, various films have poured about $1.1 billion into the state’s economy.

He says for every dollar spent, the city hosting those films gets $3 back.

“It creates jobs and it helps bring money into the economy that wouldn't have been there otherwise. By bringing in both of these films, which both of them had budgets over 20, close to $30 million, it was a way for a lot of local businesses to thrive because of that,” Wendt said. “We're trying to hammer home that this is a legitimate business for Ohio.”

Wendt tells us Cleveland almost missed out. Cherry and Judas and the Black Messiah were going to settle for LA and Pittsburgh because of talk about Ohio’s motion picture tax being pulled from state's budget. However, all that changed when local crew members went to Columbus to fight for the incentive.

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Behind the scenes of Judas and the Black Messiah shot at Lane Metropolitan Church on East 46th Street in Cleveland.

It’s safe to say their fight paid off.

“We've got a lot more Cleveland stories that we want to tell,” said Anthony. “That sense of community that exists in Cleveland is very special to us and very inspiring.”

Still, the Russo brothers say more work needs to be done in the hometown to lure in more Hollywood films.

"Not everything can be location work, so if there were an investment made towards soundstages, I think that would actually pull a lot more work and if we can keep the and the rebate, because you're competing with states like Georgia or Louisiana or Canada that has that has those rebates. So it's really a function of pulling the work there and those are two ways to do it. "